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30 Do’s And 20 Don’ts In Starting A Small Business

Small scale businesses are easier to set up compared to the middle or large scale businesses that require more time, feasibility reports, ad...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Main Problem Faced By Small Businesses In Managing Their Finances

Here are a few .....

Lack of skill. I've friends who are continually training entrepreneurs on the difference between gross profit and net profit, or between direct costs and overhead, and why these matter so much.

Inadequate support. Their bookkeepers -- and often their CPAs -- are focused on tax accounting, not management accounting. They need someone with a CFO mentality.

Poor systems. Inflexible software, hard to get the reports they need.

Intimidated by numbers. They look at a P&L spreadsheet and their eyes glaze over.

They don't know how to ask for reports that give them the handful of numbers they need to keep track of performance daily.

Or they are good at it, and do it themselves. This is a poor use of their time, and they don't get an objective outside perspective on their numbers.

They run their business to minimize profit so they don't have to pay taxes, then wonder why they can't get a bank loan.

They try to finance growth out of cash flow rather than obtaining capital from a bank or investor.

They fear debt and are reluctant to invest in their own business growth.

And finally they run the business to maximize revenue and neglect profit. They need to adopt a revenue AND profit perspective.

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Amazing Deal for Small Business Owners

This is an amazing deal for small business owners that I just had to share. Here is the deal:

For a limited time only Siglat Mobile Apps is offering free iPhone app development for small businesses. 50 businesses who respond to the offer, will receive a FREE marketing iPhone app. Siglat Mobile Applications allows your customers to purchase your product directly from their mobile device.

Simply create a Video or Power Point explaining how your business could use an iphone app!

Siglat Mobile Apps specializes in providing custom Direct Purchase iPhone Apps for small businesses using PayPal's Mobile In-App purchasing API. We currently have two application templates to choose from depending on your product type.

The basic template is a grid display similar to the one used by the Mimosa iPhone app. Mimosa features custom images of your product that the user can touch to get more detailed information before a purchase.

The second template is a display which lists your products by category and allows users to "drill down" until they find the product they need. Your customers are then presented with an image of your item, detailed product information, and the option to purchase.

We recommend using the first template for customers with up to 15 items, and the second template for customers with more than 15 items. Using these templates allows for Rapid-Application Development of your app. The process usually takes less than 1 month – including the wait for App Store acceptance. Specialized applications can also be arranged for businesses with products that require a different purchasing format.

For this promotion Siglat is also waving its normal purchase charge of 30% per item to only to 10% per item! So not only will you get a free app in the App Store, but the purchase fee on what you sell will be decreased for the life of your app. Create your video and act now before this offer expires!


Visit
http://siglat.com/.

Siglat Mobile Apps
2351 Sunset Blvd. STE 170
Rocklin CA 95765
Phone: (916) 672-8134

iphoneapp@siglat.com

Key Challenges Faced By Women Entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs face all of the same challenges faced by male entrepreneurs, with some additional obstacles. For example:

1. In most cultures, women are the primary caregivers for children. They face additional pressures when they become entrepreneurs - how do they balance business ownership vs. motherhood?

2. As a female entrepreneur, depending on the type of business, they may still face some stereotypes. Women may have to still be better and smarter than their male counterpart in order to get the contract.

These are a few challenges. To all men, please do not think that I am saying that you do not face challenges that are particular to men. These are just some specific challenges that some women many face.

Women-owned businesses are growing and home-based businesses are growing because of stay-at-home Moms! SBA shows that 50% of start-up businesses are women-owned businesses!

In fact .... State of Women-Owned Businesses Report Executive Summary from American Express - March 2011

• As of 2011, it is estimated that there are over 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.7 million people.

• Between 1997 and 2011, when the number of businesses in the United States increased by 34%, the number of women-owned firms increased by 50%— a rate 1½ times the national average.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How To Be A Democrat .... Warning - Honest 1st Hand Observations On The State Of America

Here's a little respite from our normal tips, tools, and news for the small business community. I warn you it is an honest 1st hand observation of the state of America. If it offends anyone .... too - damn - bad.

How to be a Democrat ....

1. You must believe that the way to eliminate the national debt is for the government to spend more money.

2. You must believe that the rich, who pay 86% of the federal tax revenue, are not paying their “fair share,” while the 50% or Americans who pay no taxes at all are paying their “fair share”.

3. You must believe that there is absolutely no connection between welfare payments and the soaring illegitimacy rate.

3. You must believe that the Democrats, who decided it was more important to shove Obamacare down the nation’s collective throat than to pass a budget, are blameless in the latest fiscal debacle.

4. You must believe that there is some kind of noble virtue in living here as an illegal alien while draining the taxpayer dry by collecting entitlements.

5. You must believe that capital punishment is abhorrent but abortion is benign.

6. You must believe that PBS is fair and balanced, while Fox is biased.

7. You must believe that you know best how to raise other people’s children, how to live other people’s lives, and how to spend other people’s money.

8. You must believe that Christians are a threat but MusIims are simply misunderstood victims of prejudice.

9. You must believe that the party of Alan West, Herman Cain, and Marco Rubio is racist, while the party of Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton is tolerant.

10. You must believe that the only reason socialism has not been an unqualified success is because it has not been tried by anyone as smart as America’s modern Democrats.

11. You must believe that minorities are not smart enough to be successful without affirmative action.

There ... I got that off my chest. Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like. Be aware that liberal trolls and brain dead progressives need not reply. We already know you can't handle the truth.

One more thing. GOD BLESS AMERICA ..... in 2012 we'll get her back.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Are Your Favorite Business Tips From Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich"?

I thought the title was a bit of a misnomer and would be a better fit for The Secret. Actually, I read about 3 pages of the Secret and couldn't go any further. What I liked about Hill's book, is that it focused on goal setting, leadership and good ol' hard work. In the book it states, when you find what you love, stop at nothing to make it happen. Hard work and perseverance pay off.

What were your favorite business tips from the book ... that you personally use towards your business efforts?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Do You Have a Passion For Your Success?

I've just opened a store in a "new" town -- the town's not new, but I am new to the town. I'm trying to get to know the other merchants, so I took a walk around the main street the other day, talking to some of the business owners. It was an interesting experience. Right away a picture started to emerge: there were those that were serious entrepreneurs and then there were those that were ... no so much shall we say.

One store I visited started out the conversation by telling me how much they hated the downtown and that they had security cameras everywhere due to a "dangerous element". Another store informed me that I had no right to park on the city street -- that was for HER customers. Okay. Where do my customers park I asked. She simply shrugged. Many of the stores are only open part-time: by appointment only, and catch me when you can.

Then, I found several other businesses who "get it". They are open 7 days a week, from early in the morning until well past 5 pm. They give other merchants discounts to keep them coming back to the downtown area instead of going out on the highway to the big box stores. They get to know you, calling you by name when you walk by. They are active in the merchant's association and plan events and activities throughout the year. The Chamber works with these businesses and helps promote their events, their sales, whatever is needed. It's a good group. I hope I can be part of that group.

All too often I see business people that don't really seem to want new, or repeat, business. Seems they just like to have someplace to go or something to do when they get up in the morning. I story about customer service -- bad customer service -- that I often tell happened to me several years ago when I was still in big city world (versus small town country). I went into a sign shop to order vinyl banners for my storefront. I ordered black banners with yellow lettering. I placed the order 3 weeks before my grand opening and was told that they would be ready a week before I needed them. On the assigned day, I went to pick up my order; I was really excited because this was my first storefront. I had been homebased prior to this. When I got there, the banners were yellow, with black lettering. I was devastated. I must have let out an involuntary groan of "oh no!" -- and immediately realized I had to duck as a pair of vinyl cutting shears (with very long, and very sharp blades) went flying past me, the owner of the company screaming that I had no right to question her choices. I had already paid a great deal of money for these (and there was NO return coming my way), so I wound up taking the signs and going. Do you think I went back there again? NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

More recently I have been consulting and training small business people on marketing, customer service, creating value in their businesses and growth for their companies. Most people have told me that what they learn has helped them and they are grateful for the services. However, I also have come across a few who say things like, I've been doing this for over 20 years. I don't need anyone to tell me what I should do -- I've done it all already. But when I ask them what they are looking for for their businesses, they reply "More customers." OR "more money". My response then is, but you're doing everything the right way? Guess nobody wants what you have to offer. I"m sure if they've been doing this for 20 years, and making money at it, someone has wanted what they offered. But perhaps they need to look at new ways and new technologies to "grow with the flow". You think maybe?

Entrepreneur Magazine a few months ago had a discussion about the difference between an entrepreneur and a small business. It was interesting to read what they had to say: a true entrepreneur has passion for what they are doing and the willingness to see it through (http://www.entrepreneur.com/startingabusiness/startupbasics/article190986.html). A small business person, however, is someone that perhaps is not a risktaker, or someone who is more prone to consider themselves a worker (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/83764).

I think that for someone to truly succeed, they need to have the characteristics discussed above and be willing to "be in it for the long-haul." I plan on being there -- what about you?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Coming Brick Wall in Venture Capital & Why This is Good for US Innovation

The author of the below article (see link) argues that the venture capital business itself is going through an even more fundamental change than just the entry of a new category at the earliest stage. That the industry is shrinking back to a mid-90′s level in terms of both dollars and numbers of firms. What do you think of that argument?

Here is a link to the article I am talking about: Brick Wall

A couple of thoughts around that:

1. The economies of starting a company today are different than what they were in the mid-90's. Cost of acquisition is lower and technologies such as cloud computing and methodologies as A/B testing and agile development brought down the cost of development & IT. Given that comparing the total capital available is not necessarily the right metric.

2. Given that economies have change and given that we are starting to see more medium size acquisitions(<$40M) (and sometimes quick talent acquisitions), large funds (north to $150M) are struggling. There are fewer blockbusters and the good deal flow for growth stage rounds is centered about the top 5-6 VC (Accel, Sequoia, DFJ etc.). The rest settle for lower quality deal flow which is expected to impact their ability to achieve target returns and raise another fund.

A $250M VC fund trying to target a 20% IRR in 5 years needs to reach $500M of exits. If they have 20% of each exit then they need to target total exits of $2.5B. If you are invested in Facebook, LinkedIn or GroupOn then you are set. Otherwise it is challenging to meet those returns.

3. Like with any industry, you need to keep an eye on the market and change constantly. The VCs that noticed the change early on (USV, First Round Capital) changed their investment strategy & fund size. The ones that failed to recognize the change, might struggle.

Mark Suster wrote a nice article summarizing these trends: Venture Capital

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How Not To Hear “Sorry - No Sale”

key-to-success tplus rxt In the globally syndicated BNET blog Sales Machine,  Geoffrey James, the author, featured  an article called A Roadmap to Winning That "Yes!” 

He said it “contains a very clear step-by-step roadmap for developing an initial B2B contact”

Here’s the post By Geoffrey James | July 15, 2011

“My friend (and frequent Sales Machine commentor) Neil Licht recently posted a comment that I think contains a very clear step-by-step roadmap for developing an initial B2B contact.  I’ve minimally edited and reformatted his content, which appears below:”

====

Here’s a way to create a path to “Yes!”, based upon my experience in sales and with many clients:

  • STEP #1. Do some research and understand the target company, especially how and why your product or solution can help.

  • STEP #2. Next, make a short 30 second commercial based on your findings that can quickly and succinctly say what you do, create a reason for listening, relate pertinent issues, benefits and problems solved and let you ask if its something that the prospect needs or would adopt.

 

  • STEP #3. Next find and define who would be right to hear that commercial at the highest level of responsibility and authority, relate to it and give you a true assessment of need/value on the spot.  Note: that’s usually not the CEO because the CEO is not focused on running their divisions or departments. Other folks are and can relate to what you have because of that fact.

  • STEP #4. Make the phone call to that person and use the 30 second commercial. After the commercial, ask for and qualify the possibility of need or value for what you have explained from the person you are speaking with.  Ask it this way “Is this an idea that can benefit you and your company.” (While this is a “yes or no” question, its what you must know at this stage.)

  • STEP #5. If the answer is “no” skip to Step 6.  If the answer is “yes,” start a brief discussion about how, why, reason, problems solved, impact, etc.  This creates a link between you and the person that you have called for the sales process to begin that, if pursued properly, you have the basis of selling value/ROI and not cost and you know it has possibilities to yield a sale based on those criterion.  Skip to step 7.

 

  • STEP #6. If no, or you get a weak maybe, stop selling, say thanks and move on to the next prospect. Don’t waste sales time on this one. Say: “Thanks for your time and your honesty. I can see that our solution isn’t applicable to you.”  Then ask “Do you know of a colleague that could use my solution.” You might get a great prospect to call or even an introduction.  If so, go back to Step 1 and start over.

  • STEP #7. Ask about the process for moving forward. Find out who else needs to be involved.  Ask: “If we do have a worthwhile solution for you, who along with you would need to be involved in evaluating, adopting and purchasing.”  Since your idea or solution has already been acknowledged as worthwhile by the prospect. using this question also lets you ask them for help in moving forward.  IMPORTANT: Don’t ask: “Who is the decision maker?” That’s an insulting question because it says to your suspect that you consider him or her a peon.

  • STEP #8. After you have found out that they may want to buy your offering, state a rough cost right then to your suspect for the solution and ask if there is a budget for implementing the concept if it’s a worthwhile idea.  Don’t even think of continuing the sales process without knowing the answer to this question.  It tells you if you can proceed with your idea and also lets you ask and understand the company’s usual process for evaluating and ultimately purchasing your idea is.

  • STEP 9: Set up the next step, which will probably involve meeting (in person or on the phone) with other individuals involved in the decision or purchasing process.

Neil Licht CEO HereWeAre, Chief adviser, Acquiring Paying Customers Consultancy Group
callhereweare@verizon.net
http://www.wix.com/ndlicht/hereweare

Youtube video tutorial http://www.youtube.com/user/ndlicht

====

READERS: Huge vote of thanks to Neil for sharing this.  (Note: his original comment is in the post The Fallacy of Calling High.

Using Social Media To Market Your Small Business

Especially for a small (and medium-sized) business enterprise, a good way to promote the business would be through Social Media channels. Apart from this, one needs to be well networked and have friends and contacts who can pass the word through a viral "chain".

Coming to specifics, one needs to develop a comprehensive strategy for harnessing the full capabilities of Social Media. A mere presence on Facebook and getting a large number of "Likes" for the posts doesn't really translate into actual Sales. The idea behind Social Media is primarily to {i} continuously engage with potential customers as well as "converts", {ii} provide them with timely info about services, offers, and latest updates, and {iii} have a response mechanism for queries and questions / complaints from customers and fans.

In addition to a presence on Facebook, suggest you to also explore other channels of Social Media, including Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Facebook, Twitter. Linkedin and Youtube marketing are all very powerful and the capabilities of Social Media can actually be fully tapped when you have an integrated strategy for all these channels.

I would suggest the following Social Media strategies:

1. Create a Facebook Fan Page
2. Create a Twitter account
3. Promote your business on Linkedin
4. Create an Youtube account

Now, for the things you should do:

1. Create a blog on your website and write about your items. Once done, Tweet the URL, share the URL on Facebook and on Linkedin. Encourage people to LIKE your blog post or ReTweet.

2. Make a video about your items, you can try www.animoto.com and create one for free. Once done, upload the video to Youtube and share to friends in FB and Twitter.

3. Have an ongoing promotion to attract new customers and post this on your FB fan page, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube. You can also create another video about your promotion.

4. Suggest your fan page to all your friends and contacts on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Don't forget to promote it on Youtube as well.

5. Constantly update your site with blog posts or helpful tips to share to your fans and friends. Provide a link back to your site at all times.

6. You can submit a press release to free press release sites to tell others what your store is about.

7.Give something out for free - may be an instructional ebook, a recipe, a free screensaver, etc. and tell people about it.

8. Constantly establish new connections through social media platforms to establish credibility.

9. Keep on making new friends and expand your network as well.

10. Update your site weekly and your social media sites daily.

11. Equally important, have a response mechanism ready in place to handle all inquiries / questions / complaints in a timely manner.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Successful Strategy For Marketing A Small Business

Simply Put .... develop a marketing plan. Here are some tips:

TASTE, TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGY

What does your research indicate is the trend in your field? Will it stay the way you are currently offering supplies and services or will it change? This item covers the developments you expect for the next few years. Evan a 'perfect' business can become obsolete overnight due to future developments. Specify a 5 year forecast of your field in your area.

SALES REVENUE FORECAST

Have you developed these targets? This section shows your estimates of future sales revenue for your business. Your strategic plan, needs to spell out the specific actions you will take to achieve your forecast sales revenues.

DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION

How does your business differ from the competition's strong and weak points. Again, remember to carefully look at your business from the customer's perspective. If you're not sure how your pricing policies compare to the competition, here are some guidelines. Most people associate high prices with high quality and extra service, while they associate low prices with low or average quality and minimum service. Make sure you provide extra quality and service if your prices are higher than your competition or make sure that your prices are lower if your quality is average and your service is minimum.

DECIDE HOW TO REACH CUSTOMERS

Once you describe your target customer, it's easier to create a list of possible ways to reach that person. One of your jobs as a businessperson is to decide which of all the possible methods of communication will give you the most exposure for the least cost in money or time.

EVALUATE THE RISKS FACING YOUR BUSINESS

COMPETITION: Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.

PIONEERING: If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?

CYCLES AND TRENDS: Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?

SLOW TIMES: Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is ?

OWNERS EXPERTISE: Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on?

Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disaster.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Biggest Mistake That Small Business Owners Make

I know that there are a lot of options here. But if you had to narrow it down to just one mistake that is keeping small business owners from reaching their potential what would it be?

Her's one take ....

Before becoming a small business owner most of them are directed by society through schooling and the corporate business world. In both there is orientation, training, a boss (a teacher or a supervisor), rules and regulations, policies and procedures, evaluations; in essence there is a structure they must conform to. They are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

Then they go into the world of the entrepreneur. There is no orientation, training, rules and regulations, etc. There is no structure. They do not have a boss. Nobody tells them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Instead of everything being created for them, they have to create it themselves.

Unfortunately the direction they received in school and in the corporate business world is very limited in it's value of helping them to be successful as a small business owner. Everything in school and the corporate business world is based on linear processes happening one after the other. In the entrepreneurial world things don't happen in a linear fashion and everything is happening simultaneously. They also are responsible for everything instead of just their cubical. This creates confusion and overwhelm to the small business owner and they end up being in a constant stage of reaction instead of planning.

The difference in being an entrepreneur is that the business is them and they are the business, unlike the corporate world where they are just a cog in the machine.

Those that try to help the small business owner get this situation under control through methods of consultation, etc. usually come from the same background and push the expertise they gained in their cubical in the corporate business world. Again, very limiting.

If there is a silver bullet to how to be a successful small business owner why do we have thousands of books on the subject? Why isn't there only one? Because it's how each author was able to make-it but that doesn't mean everyone can make-it in the same way. Everyone is looking outside of themselves to find the answer.

The answer is inside of each of us. Whatever is going on inside of each of the small business owners will manifest in their businesses. For example, you usually don't find a very disorganized business owner having a very organized business.

Before we went into society, when we were little children, we knew what we liked and we knew what we didn't like. In fact, if someone tried to make us do something we didn't like, we got very upset. We also worked in a way that was natural to us. We didn't have to ask how to do something, we just went and did it.

Then we went into the Borg. Remember the Borg in the TV series Startrek, The Next Generation? The Borg was the gigantic cube that went around the universe sucking everyone into it and in doing so, they lost all of their individuality. That's what happens to all of us when we go to school and the corporate business world.

In the world of the entrepreneur the business owner has to know who they are, why they want to play the game, and why they want to win. They can not hide in a cubical. They have to really dig deep and find what they are passionate about, what really matters to them, where they get their energy from and be doing what they would be doing, even if they won the lottery.

Without this awareness and being able to harness the energy and power from that awareness, they are like a lost ball in tall weeds.

So the biggest mistake they are making is not finding their authentic self. This is not easy to do by yourself. They need to find someone that has done it and can help them as well.

An entrepreneurial business is created from the inside of the business owner out into the business. In a corporate business it is created from the outside in.

"Believe that things will work somehow out... follow your intuition
 and curiosity... trust your heart even when it leads you off the 
well-worn path... You have to trust that the dots will somehow
 connect in your future... The only way to do great work is to love 
what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't 
settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find
 it... Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They 
somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else 
is secondary." - Steve Jobs, Apple

Monday, July 4, 2011

Which Social Media Site Is Best For Small Business?

The answer is ... it depends! What is your objective for using a social media site? Who are your customers and which social media sites do they use?

There is no "best" site - each site has different features and benefits which work differently according to the sector you are in, what kind of customers you have and your specific objectives for using social media.

Furthermore it depends upon your employees. If someone tells you Facebook is the best, yet your staff hate it, no amount of encouragement from you will get them to use it to benefit your business.

So you need to find out more about your customers and how they use social media, more about the preferences of your staff and focus in on some clear objectives for using social media.

Simply being told a particular site is the best will not take into account the specific and individual circumstances at your company I'm afraid.

Working Together

Working Together